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Zimbabwe: Regional Delayed Debut Campaign Launched


Zimbabwe has become the first; of what will be at least 16 African nations, to implement a regional communication campaign to encourage young people to delay sexual relations as long as possible. PSI's AIDSMark project developed the campaign and in Zimbabwe has already partnered with numerous faith-based organizations to extend the reach and impact of its healthy behavior messaging.


The campaign, made possible through the support of President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through USAID, is based on qualitative research carried out with 14-19 year olds from eight African countries that concludes that sexual violence and coercion, intense peer pressure and transactional sex are major barriers to delayed sexual debut for African teens. The campaign encourages young people to rethink what it means to be a "real man" or "real woman" in response to research which revealed that youth equated sex with masculinity or femininity and often view their first sexual encounter as the transition into adulthood.


 PSI/Zimbabwe brought together over 200 representatives from 29 religious organizations and churches and over 11 youth groups from some of the largest religious institutions in Zimbabwe to the launch of its delayed debut mass media campaign. The campaign encourages youth to delay or postpone engaging in early sexual activity, and promotes abstinence until marriage.


The airing of the campaign messages on TV, radio and print and the distribution of information, education and communication material, will be supported by an interpersonal communication package for use by church groups. Youth pastors will be trained as peer educators, enabling them to:



Conduct regular discussion sessions among youth using a discussion guide developed by PSI;


Provide information on key health issues as well as the associated risks of early sex;


Provide guidance to the youth to tackle pressures to engage in early sex;


Help young people develop risk reduction plans for when they face pressure to engage in early sex;


Help parents improve their communication and ability to talk about sensitive issues with their children.


Research identified economic, societal and peer pressures which push young adults to engage in sexual relationships. Young girls and boys often engage in risky transactional sexual behavior in exchange for material goods or even basics such as school fees. Additionally there are an alarming number of young people whose first sexual encounter is coerced or forced. Research shows that these young boys and girls were not aware of the associated dangers and health risks and had very low levels of risk perception, putting them at increased risk for HIV infection, other sexually transmitted infections and early pregnancy. Data collected in 2003 across the PSI/Zimbabwe's 20 New Start voluntary HIV counseling and testing centers in Zimbabwe shows a high rate of HIV infection among young people.


From Population Services International


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